Skip to Content

Travel Guide to Borobudur: The World’s Largest Buddhist Temple

Travel Guide to Borobudur: The World’s Largest Buddhist Temple

Visiting Borobudur Temple takes you to one of Indonesia’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s the largest Buddhist Temple and a continued Buddhist pilgrimage destination, so you can quickly see why the complex is a celebrated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The temple is made from stone and decorated with carvings and statues featuring Javanese Buddhist architecture. When you’re touring Borobudur Temple, you’re exploring a complex built in the ninth century, making it one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the world.

Visitors can explore the complex on their own or take a guided tour. The entrance fee may change annually, but you can purchase admission tickets ahead of time or at the temple’s entrance.

What is the Borobudur Temple?

Buddha Statue Facing the Forest
songlala / Flickr

The Borobudur Temple in Indonesia is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and Indonesia’s most famous cultural heritage icon. The complex is one of the Buddhist world’s most treasured monuments and, as such, is a celebrated UNESCO site.

When visiting the island of Java, you can explore the magnificent temple near the city of Magelang, in the Kedu Plain, about 25 miles from Yogyakarta and approximately 33 miles from Surakarta. Most notably, the famous Buddhist temple lies in the shadow of two active volcanoes. The reliefs decorating the concentric square terraces span around 26,909 square feet, featuring a mix of Buddhist teaching and stories with religious significance.

Much of the Gupta architectural design shows Indian and Hindu influences but with indigenous Javanese elements, too. There are 2,672 intricately carved stone relief panels, most of which feature scenes from Buddha’s life and tell the story of Buddhist cosmology.

There are also 504 Buddha figures. The incredible thing about this structure is that no cement or mortar was used; instead, the pieces of stone were fitted together, much like interlocking pieces of Lego.

About 1,942,306 cubic feet of stone were used in the construction, and they were joined together with knobs, indentations, and dovetails to create the five concentric square terraces and more.

History of Borobudur Temple

Relief in Borobudur Temple
Motohiko Tokuriki / Flickr

As mentioned, the Borobudur Archaeological Park is one of the most significant Buddhist monuments in the world – but it is still unclear why it was built. Many believe it was built in Central Java because of its position relative to the Shailendra dynasty, between the 8th and 9th centuries CE, nearly 300 years before Angkor Wat.

Borobudur’s construction took 75 years to complete. Touring Borobudur with a local guide or archaeologists, you can learn how the reconstruction of Borobudur stopped in 875 CE, and it is thought that King Samaratungga oversaw the work at that time. The temple remained in use until the 14th century.

From the 1300s until the 1800s, the holy site was unused as it lay hidden under volcano ash and overgrown vegetation. The monument was preserved until being rediscovered in 1814 by the island’s Governor-General, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, when the island was briefly under British rule.

The 2011 volcanic eruptions from Mount Merapi resulted in some minor damage and could have further harmed the temples. But volunteers, the local community, UNESCO, and the Indonesian government helped clear the harmful volcanic ash and restore Borobudur.

While there is still much debate among modern historians about what political events led to the construction of Borobudur. But, it is clear that the temple is an incredible feat of engineering and architecture, and it continues to be a world-famous tourist destination in Indonesia.

See Related: Best Ancient Ruins & Archeological Sites in the World

Spiritual Significance

Buddhist Monks in Borobudur Temple
Tiket2.com / Flickr

The Borobudur temple is designed to mimic a three-dimensional mandala. The geometric design represents the universe and is used for meditation.

The ten terraces of the building represent the ten stages of becoming a Buddha, and they also capture the marvels of ancient Java. Each scene depicted on the ancient structures symbolically represents the universe.

The relief sculptures on the temple depict Buddhist beliefs and stories. The stone stairs, five square terraces, and artistic magnificence of Buddhist reliefs are meant to guide followers toward higher states of consciousness. The central, monumental stupa on top of the Borobudur temple represents the energizing mind.

How to Get to Borobudur Temple

Monuments in Borobudur temple
Marc-André Jung / Flickr

The temple is located in the Magelang Regency of Central Java in the Kedu Valley and can be accessed from Yogyakarta or Jakarta. There are easy connecting flights to Yogyakarta from other regional airports like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. From there, you can take a bus or taxi to the temple.

Best Time to Visit Borobudur

Landscape in Merapi from Borobudur Temple
Marc-André Jung / Flickr

As with any other popular tourist destination, the best time to visit Borobudur Temple will vary depending on your interests and priorities. The island of Java lies just below the equatorial line, so the temple is busiest during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer and early fall when the weather is at its best.

Want a quieter experience? Consider visiting in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter or spring. Keep in mind that the temple is closed every Monday for maintenance.

Tips for Visiting the Borobudur Temple Compound

If you’re planning to visit the temple, here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience:

  • Make sure to dress appropriately. The temple is a sacred place, so visitors should dress modestly. This means no shorts or tank tops!
  • Be prepared for a lot of walking. The temple covers a large area, and there are many stairs to climb. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be ready for a workout!
  • Bring sunscreen and a hat. The temple is in a hot, tropical climate, and it can be very sunny during the day. Make sure to protect yourself from the sun’s rays!
  • Arrive early. The temple gets very crowded later in the day, so try to arrive as early as possible to avoid crowds.
  • Be respectful of the temple and its residents. The Borobudur Temple is a sacred space, and visitors should show respect by not talking loudly or behaving disruptively.

See Related: Must-Have Tips to Avoid Having a Boring Vacation

What to See at the Borobudur World Heritage Site

Man Walking Towards a Temple

This site is the largest Buddhist monument on Earth and was constructed as one giant stupa with a square base, six square lower platforms, and three circular platforms at the top. The structure has three ascending levels, which are reached by following a path, corridors, and stairways.

This gradual ascension is symbolic of three levels in Buddhism – the world of desire, the world of form, and the world of formlessness. The central dome is situated on a platform and surrounded by 72 perforated stupas, which hold 72 statues of Buddha.

These small stupas are bell-shaped, and the perforated openings form a decorative design, adding to the monumental arts. The ascending nature of the structure gives it a pyramid-like appearance based on the earlier local punden berundak (step pyramid) structure.

Borobudur Temple Compound Buddhist Pilgrimage

The annual Buddhist celebration of Vesak takes place in Borobudur Temple in May or June when Buddhist pilgrims journey to the temple during the full moon. The pilgrimage involves walking between three Buddhist temples: Mendut, Pawon, and Borobudur.

Wandering the massive temple complex built around the large central stupa and six square platforms with 72 small stupas shows the way to becoming Bodhisattva.

The main temple is a sacred place for Buddhists because it is a pilgrimage site. Instead of a place solely of worship, the temple complex acts as a place of contemplation and meditation through the act of pilgrimage. Each step closer to the temple’s peak imitates a step towards higher consciousness.

It is said that those who journey to the temple and climb to the top of the structure will be rewarded with enlightenment. The many Buddha statues pilgrims pass along the way are said to bring good luck and protection.

Things to Do in Borobudur Temple

When in Borobudur Temple, which is locally known as Candi Borobudur, there are a few things that you can do to make the most out of your visit.

Tour the Mendut Temple

During a Mendut Temple tour, you’ll find the religious site located close to the Borobudur Temple Compound. The temple was thought to have been built around the same time. While it’s small compared to Borobudur, it’s still impressive.

Mendut Temple is dedicated to the three Buddhist brothers who introduced Buddhism to Indonesia from the Indian subcontinent: Sangharaja, Sangghabhuwana, and Sangghawisesa. The temple is said to have been built by King Airlangga, the first king of the Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Kahuripan.

Exploring the Pawon Temple

A tour that includes Pawon Temple will show you a small temple believed to have been built in the 8th century and dedicated to Vishnu. The temple is made of stone and has a thatched roof, and it’s surrounded by a small garden.

Learn about Borobudur Temple at Karmawibhangga Museum

Karmawibhangga Museum Pendopo of Borobudur
Gunawan Kartapranata / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Karmawibhangga Museum, or the Borobudur Museum, is dedicated to the history of the greater complex. Its five stories are dedicated to different aspects of the Borobudur Temple: history, art, religion, philosophy, and geology.

The first story explains the history of the Borobudur Temple. It contains exhibits that tell how the temple was built leading up to becoming a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The second story showcases the art of the Borobudur Temple. The third story is about the religion of the Borobudur Temple, and it contains exhibits that explain the Buddhist religion and how it is practiced at the temple.

The fourth story is dedicated to the philosophy of the Borobudur Temple. It contains exhibits that discuss the teachings of Buddhism and how they are represented in the temple.

The fifth story is about the geology of the Borobudur Temple. This floor shows how the temple was built and how the landscape influenced its design.

See Artifacts at Samudra Raksa Museum

Samudra Raksa Museum  in Indonesia
Gunarta / Wikimedia Commons , CC BY-SA 4.0

The Samudra Raksa Museum is dedicated to preserving the Borobudur Temple in many ways. The museum houses a collection of artifacts and photographs related to the temple and information on its history and restoration. Visitors can also learn about the Buddhist teachings represented at Borobudur.

Some of the things to do in the Samudra Raksa Museum include looking at the ancient Javanese artifacts, admiring the beautiful architecture, and taking pictures with the different statues of Buddha.

See Related: Family-Friendly Spring Break Ideas

Attractions Near Borobudur Temple

Candi Prambanan

Stone Monuments of Candi Prambanan

A guided tour of Candi Prambanan will reveal the 8th-century Hindu temple in Central Java, Indonesia. It is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia and one of the largest Hindu temples in Southeast Asia.

The temple was dedicated to the Trimurti, the Hindu pantheon of three primary gods: Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the rat; and Shiva, the destroyer. The temple was built during the reign of Rakai Pikatan, a vassal of the Shailendra Dynasty that ruled the Mataram kingdom.

Sambisari Temple

The Sambisari Temple is an 8th-century Hindu temple in the Yogyakarta province of Indonesia. The temple was discovered in 1918 by a Dutch archaeological team.

Its distinctive design combines elements of both Hindu and Buddhist temple architecture. The temple is decorated with intricate carvings depicting scenes from the Hindu epic poem, the Ramayana. It’s a very different experience than the Buddhist temples, but if you’re visiting Indonesia for cultural heritage and history, you should make the stop.

Candi Sukuh

Visit Candi Sukuh with a guide to find the fifteenth-century Javanese Hindu temple on Mount Lawu, near Solo, Java. The temple is noted for its unique erotic sculptures. It was built around 1437 by Javanese King Ken Arok, founder of the Singhasari Kingdom. 

Ratu Boko Palace

Ratu Boko Palace is located on the top of a hill near Borobudur. The palace was built in the 9th century as a royal residence for the Shailendra dynasty and acted as a place of retreat for the kings and their families during the rainy season.

The Ratu Boko Palace complex consists of three main courtyards surrounded by a wall with gates. The first, outermost courtyard contains a watchtower, gatehouse, and stables. The second courtyard is the main residential area of the palace, where you’ll find the Kingatsen series of temples.

The temple complex comprises six square platforms, three circular platforms, and a central dome constructed from red brick and grey limestone. The whole complex is adorned with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. If you plan on visiting, get your admission ticket now to avoid long lines.

See Related: ViaTravelers’ Booking.com Review

Plaosan Temple

Plaosan-Temple and  Skyline

The Plaosan Temple is located just a few kilometers from the Borobudur Temple, and its similar design hints that it was created by the same architect. It’s a Hindu temple well worth visiting while you’re in the area.

This Plaosan Temple sunset tour highlights how the site, although smaller than Borobudur Temple, is no less impressive. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma.

See Related: Top Travel Insurance for Kids

Restaurants Near The Borobudur Temple

Walking the grounds of the Borobudur Temple is a lot of work, and you’ll likely work up an appetite while you get your steps in. Luckily, there are plenty of Indonesian restaurants nearby.

Here are a few of our favorites. You’ll find a welcoming environment and homestyle food waiting for you at each of these.

Patio Colonial

Patio Colonial interior
Patio Colonial / Facebook

The Patio Colonial serves traditional Indonesian food. The restaurant is located in the Borobudur Temple complex, and you can enjoy the views of the temple while you eat. The food is reasonably priced, and the staff is friendly and welcoming.

Stupa Restaurant by Plataran

Food served in Stupa Restaurant by Plataran
Stupa Restaurant by Plataran / Facebook

The Stupa Restaurant by Plataran is located in the Borobudur Temple complex. The restaurant offers an all-day dining experience with international and regional dishes. Stupa Restaurant has a garden setting with an open-air dining pavilion overlooking the Temple.

See Related: Epic Tips for Stress-Free Travel

Amata Resto

Food served at Amata Resto
Amata Resto / Facebook

The Amata Resto is one of the most popular places to eat in Borobudur. It offers a wide range of local and international cuisine and has an excellent atmosphere for enjoying a meal.

The restaurant is open from early morning until late at night, which makes it particularly convenient for travelers. You may find that other restaurants in the area close up early or don’t open up their doors until you’re in line for your tour, so this is one of the more convenient places to eat if you’re on a stricter schedule.

Paksi Coffee House

Paksi Coffee House interior
Rollechka / TripAdvisor

The Paksi Coffee House is the best place to relax and enjoy coffee after a morning tour of the Borobudur Temple. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the views of the temple are amazing. I highly recommend visiting the Paksi Coffee House for a pick-me-up during your visit to this incredible Buddhist temple.

See Related: Best Organic Restaurants in Bali to Try

Best Place to Stay Near Borobudur

Best Luxury Hotels

Plataran Borobudur

Plataran Borobudur with a Pool
Plataran Borobudur / Booking.com

The Plataran Borobudur is a luxury resort located in Borobudur. The resort offers a stunning location overlooking the temple, which makes it the perfect base to explore the temple complex and surrounding area.

Featuring luxurious rooms and suites with private balconies and terraces overlooking the temple, a world-class spa, fine dining options, and extensive leisure facilities, it’s clear the Plataran offers a world-class experience to anyone looking to visit Borobudur Temple. The rooms and suites are decorated in a traditional Javanese style and feature all the modern amenities guests expect from a five-star resort.

MesaStila Resort and Spa

Infinity Pool Facing the Mountains
MesaStila Resort and Spa / Booking.com

The MesaStila Resort and Spa is a luxurious resort close to the temple. The resort is situated on a hilltop and offers stunning views of the surrounding area. MesaStila features 72 rooms, a spa, a restaurant, and a bar.

Plataran Heritage Borobudur Hotel

Big Pool and Building with Lights
Plataran Heritage Borobudur Hotel / Booking.com

Plataran Heritage Borobudur Hotel offers guests a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of the temple and its surroundings from the comfort of their rooms. The hotel has 21 rooms, each of which is decorated in a different style but fitted with modern amenities and offering views of the temple complex.

See Related: Do Hotels Take Cash? Things to Know

Best Mid-Range Hotels

Shankara Borobudur

Spacious Room with Two Beds
Shankara Borobudur / Booking.com

The Shankara Borobudur Hotel is close to Borobudur, End, and Pawon temples. This hotel is an ideal base for exploring the area’s historic sites and cultural attractions.

The hotel itself is a work of art, with beautiful Javanese-style architecture and landscaped gardens. The resort hotel offers 5-star amenities and services, including an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, and a restaurant serving both Indonesian and international cuisine.

Manohara Borobudur

Two Bedroom with Lamps
Manohara Borobudur / Booking.com

The Manohara Borobudur Hotel has been designed to reflect the architecture and surroundings of the temple and offers guests a unique experience. Facilities include a spa, restaurant, pool, and rooms with stunning views of the temple. If you’re looking for a simple place to stay when you visit Borobudur Temple, this checks all the boxes.

The Nalaya Hotel & Resto

Restaurant Front of The Nalaya Hotel & Resto
The Nalaya Hotel & Resto / Booking.com

The Nalaya Hotel & Resto is an ideal place to stay during your visit to this important Buddhist pilgrimage site. It offers comfortable accommodations, a delicious breakfast buffet, and a convenient location just minutes from the temple.

I’ve actually stayed here! The hotel staff is friendly and helpful, and they go out of their way to make sure you have a pleasant stay. I would unquestionably recommend the Nalaya Hotel & Resto to travelers exploring Borobudur.

See Related: Different Types of Hotel Rooms

Best Budget Hotels

Borobudur Bed & Breakfast

Borobudur Bed & Breakfast Charming Room
Borobudur Bed & Breakfast / Booking.com

The Borobudur Bed & Breakfast is a great place to stay when visiting the area. It’s a beautiful, traditional Javanese home that has been converted into a bed and breakfast.

The rooms are comfortable, and the staff is reportedly friendly and helpful. The Borobudur B&B is located within walking distance of the temple.

Watumpang Homestay Borobudur

Watumpang Homestay Borobudur Room with Tow Beds and a TV
Watumpang Homestay Borobudur / Booking.com

The Watumpang Homestay Borobudur is situated in the village of Watumpang, which is located in the district of Magelang, Central Java. The Watumpang Borobudur is situated just a short distance from the Borobudur Temple compounds and offers guests the chance to experience traditional Javanese village life with a dash of luxury. The homestay provides comfortable accommodation and excellent facilities and is an ideal base for exploring the surrounding area.

Genthong Homestay

Hotel Room with Golden Interior
Genthong Homestay / Booking.com

The Genthong Homestay is a family-owned and operated homestay, and they offer clean and comfortable rooms at a very reasonable price. They also provide breakfast each morning, which is a nice bonus.

The owners are very friendly and helpful, and they can even help you arrange transportation to and from the temple. Overall, we had a great experience at the Genthong Homestay and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Borobudur Temple.

FAQs

What is special about Borobudur Temple?

Borobudur Temple is a testament to ancient Indonesian craftsmanship and spiritual devotion, on par with the more famous Angkor Wat complex. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is colossal, with nine tiers depicting Buddhist cosmology.

Over 2,500 intricate relief panels recount the sacred narratives that include the Buddhist concept of becoming a Bodhisattva, or enlightened being. The temple’s design harmoniously blends architectural elegance with religious symbolism, making Borobudur uniquely Indonesian.

It also has that post-card-style sunrise from the top levels where the layers of color, lush landscape, and misty mountains create a mystical ambiance, revealing why it is the most visited tourist site in Indonesia for national and international tourists.

Can you go inside Borobudur temple?

You can go inside the Borobudur complex and temple. The larger complex is a maze of structures and levels, each decorated with fascinating bas-reliefs and carvings that depict Buddhist spiritual stories.

Much like the famous Angkor Wat, visiting Boroduburur can feel like an immersion into the history and religious legends as you’re surrounded by a combination of Bhuddha’s previous lives as gods and the emerald jungle scenery. Dress modestly, and cover your shoulders and legs as a sign of respect to the sacred site.

Who built the Borobudur Temple and why?

The Shailendra Dynasty in Central Java built the Borobudur temple complex between the 8th and 9th centuries CE. The temple served a number of purposes, including demonstrating the dynasty’s religious devotion. It also acted as a significant place for pilgrimage until around the 15th century with the Javanese conversion to Islam.

Can I visit Borobudur and Prambanan in one day?

You can visit Borobudur and Prambanan in one day. It is a long excursion day that can take from sunrise to sunset. It takes about one and a half to two hours to travel between Borobudur and Prambanan.

This doesn’t seem like long at first, but rising early to watch the sunrise at Borobudur and then touring the largest Buddhist temple in the world takes its toll. While you can tour Borobudur and Prambanan in one day, it is easier to break it up into two separate days.

Related Resources

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *